Lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by former Falmouth pastor settled

Two men who filed a lawsuit alleging they were sexually abused for years by a priest in St. Anthony’s Parish have each received $200,000 settlements, as reported by the Cape Cod Times.

Their attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, announced the October settlements Tuesday as the Archdiocese of Hartford released the names of 48 priests found to have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Garabedian said the list was a “small step in the direction of healing for clergy sexual abuse survivors,” but said the archdiocese should also release “the names of those who participated in the cover-up.”

The link between the Falmouth case and the Hartford archdiocese is the Most Rev. Daniel Cronin, who served as bishop of the Fall River Diocese, which includes the Cape and Islands, from 1970 until 1991 and then became archbishop in Hartford, Connecticut, until his retirement in 2003. Cronin was named as defendant in the lawsuit because he supervised Monsignor Maurice Souza, who was assigned to St. Anthony’s from 1977 to 1986, and the suit said he “knew or should have known” about the abuse.

“Agents” who worked for Cronin and were supervised by him knew the boys spent the night at the rectory with Souza and went on overnight, out-of-state trips with him, the suit said.

Souza died in 1996 at age 83.

The suit was filed in June 2015 in Middlesex Superior Court by a Falmouth man and a Middleboro man who had been altar servers at St. Anthony’s from the late 1970s until the mid-1980s. Although both are identified in the suit, the Times is not naming them because of the nature of the allegations.

According to the suit, the abuse occurred from the time the boys were 9 or 10 years old until they were 16 or 17. They would accompany Souza to various sporting events and other events in several states and would often spend the night with him at the St. Anthony’s rectory, in hotels or at Souza’s residence in Taunton.

According to an order in the case dismissing two of the four original counts, Cronin appointed Souza to be pastor in 1977, where he remained until his retirement.

“As a matter of routine each morning during these trips, Souza would sexually molest the plaintiffs,” the order states.

A footnote states Cronin neither admitted nor denied that Souza molested the boys.

Cronin was also bishop during the tenure of the Rev. James Nickels at Holy Trinity Church in West Harwich. Eight of Garabedian’s clients settled with the Fall River Diocese in April 2017 for $880,000 after alleging sexual abuse by Nickels. Nickels died in 2008.

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